Monday, October 20, 2014

10. Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

I believe one of the greatest ways to truly experience and identify with God's love for us is to become a parent. I'll never forget the day my firstborn came into this world. I had a whirlwind of emotions going on after an emergency c-section but the moment Mack was placed on my chest all I could whisper was "I love you"!
I was amazed at how much love I had for this little boy that was only minutes old. I can only imagine it is a similar feeling when one decides to become a child of God and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Bible tells us ALL of Heaven rejoices! 

When I think of Love in terms of my children it is easily equated with obedience. I'm often reminded of the story where Jesus asked Peter "do you love me?"  He didn't just ask him once but rather three times. Each time with a command to do something. If we truly love the Lord, we will obey His commands. 

If you're in our home very long you will know we say "I love you" quite frequently.   There are times when my boys will say, "mommy, I love you" (when they're sorry for something they did wrong). Then there are times when I use the phrase with my boys, "if you love me, then obey me."

May Mack and Parker know that this is love: that we walk according to your commandment. (2John 1:6).  

9. A servants heart

Do as I did: The Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.” (Matthew 20:28 ERV)

I pray my boys would understand that any great leader must first learn to serve. 

We work hard to teach our boys to serve others and for their ages I think they do pretty well. An area we've recently been teaching them is parking at church. Let me explain... While we currently have 13 acres of land, 2 buildings and constructing a 3rd on the property, parking is limited. Every week parking is an issue especially for the person who may want to check out Palm Valley Church but can't find a place to park. It's not uncommon for someone to pull into our parking lot only to pull out and drive away. So in an effort to free up a couple hundred parking spaces we have asked all staff and volunteers to park in a vacant parking lot of some nearby businesses. My boys wrestled with the idea we were not parking in the front row, especially since we got there first and the parking spaces are available. They were quick to wine at the thought of having to walk a bit. Once we explained why we were doing this, my compassionate 4 year old has been eager to serve and walk while my 3 year old just doesn't get it! Hopefully with time he'll understand. 

May Mack and Parker serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving You, Lord, not men (Ephesians 6:7).

Monday, October 13, 2014

8. Purity

"Purity isn't just about sex. Purity is about keeping our eyes and hearts from anything evil, anything that has the power to overcome our will or turn our hearts away from the only true God."

Purity is often linked to abstaining from sex and while that is true to purity, purity is not limited to that. Purity begins in the heart. Now we all have corrupted hearts and therefore need cleansing by which we can't do alone. You, me nor my boys can remain pure by ourselves. But God can help us to be faithful to His will. 

I want to teach my boys and have begun to do so about purity in ways they can understand. We talk about what we see and are open to discuss things at their level as far as they're willing to ask. The subject for my boys has obviously come in the form of modesty as its near impossible to avoid in today's culture. I know a lot of parents cringe at the thought of having these seemingly awkward conversations but to be honest, this is an area I am passionate about teaching. Too often the lack of purity is not from lack of self-control but rather from a lack of education and proper training. Nonetheless, it will be tested but when we equip our children with the proper understanding and tools to combat the temptation they will have a better chance of overcoming with the help of the Lord. 

Lord, help me to train my boys in purity and to model well for them what a Godly woman should look like. How to respect a lady and honor You in doing so. 

May Mack and Parker have a love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

7. Honor

"It's standing when a lady enters the room and offering her your chair. It's being a servant leader. It's defending the weak. It's being a man of your word." 
~Caid (a grown up boy)

Our boys are young but it's never too early to teach them about honor. We use this word synonymously with respect. They may not always fully understand the word and the depth of its meaning but we will continue to use it in our vocabulary so with time it becomes a part of theirs. 

Honor/Respect are mostly associated with what is earned or deserved but I think it also should be modeled. You hear people say "honor your parents" but I believe we should also respect our children. For instance I have learned that my oldest child does not respond well to public correction. He is easily embarrassed and shuts down. I try and respect that for him it is a big deal. In turn we've had the conversation that he must also think about how his behavior may dishonor me at times and therefore we both try to have respect for each other. We don't always get it right but we are striving towards being honorable and showing honor. 

May You, Lord, bestow favor and honor upon Mack and Parker. For no good thing do You withhold from those who walk up rightly. (Psalm 91:15)

10 year Anniversary/Trip to Gatlinburg, TN

A milestone has been accomplished as Micah and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on October 1st! I truly am so thankful that Micah chose me. I still remember so vividly the night he asked me if I "was available to date" on November 25, 2003. It had been a long 2 years and 4 months of praying and seeking God if this truly was the man I would spend the rest of my life with. The waiting was difficult but in hindsight totally worth it to have waited for the one God chose for me. Micah and I committed from our first date that we would not fight but rather agree to disagree when necessary and that we'd honor one another above ourselves. It has not always been easy to take the road of humility but we were told early on that "you can be so right, you're wrong", in other words, it's not worth being right at the sake of hurting the one you love most.  We've had our moments of disagreement but I can proudly say we have not had a fight. For me that is so huge knowing from where I came. I'll be honest though, it takes intentionality and hard work but it's worth it!

So as we approached the big 10 we began dreaming about where we could go to make this special celebration a perfect memory... We filled a whiteboard with ideas from the east coast to the west coast, from tropical to skiing. And then we settled on Gatlinburg, TN to go hiking in The Smoky Mountains. As we began planning, we originally planned for our tax return to expend the trip. Our dreams were quickly dashed when our expected return was less than half of what we anticipated. Nonetheless we were still thankful we did not have to pay into taxes. For the next 6 months I had quietly prayed "God if there is any way..." Then just 6 weeks ago everything fell into place. A number of people individually contributed to making this trip happen (Gary & Karen - plane tickets, Kirk & Donna - much needed couples massage, Letreise, Rick, Sergio & Lucy, Scott & Tayton and I can't forget the wonderful friends who watched our boys - Heather/Andrew & Oz/Holly) 
 it wouldn't have been possible without each of you - THANK YOU!

Day 1: Early 5:20am flight, arriving in TN by 11:20am still giving us a full days worth of adventures. We drove into a connecting town, Pigeon Forge, and ate at the Griss Mill and walked around in the rain. 

We checked into our hotel at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa. Location was perfect, staff very hospitable, amenities above expectation. Definitely would love to bring the boys back someday. 

We headed in town to scope out Gatlinburg. A small touristy town had much to offer. We walked the streets and took in the 360 degree view of the mountains. Despite being terrified Micah made me ride The Lift up the mountain. I was thankful he did because the view was breathtaking. 
We grabbed corn dogs for dinner - yum 😉

And then we actually went to bed early considering we had been up since 3am and wanted to get an early start for our hike in the morning. 

Day 2:  We stopped by the visitors center and thankful we did because the trail we had planned to hike was closed. The nice lady reccomended Alum Cave. Round trip hike of 4.6 miles.
So we didn't encounter any bears but we definitely heard a few in the distance - got our hearts racing for sure! The trail was beautiful but steep in some parts and us Texans were not used to the altitude either. I was thankful we purchase trekking poles, don't think I could've done it without them. 
The decent was much easier! After our hike we grabbed a bite to eat in town and then I got adventurous... I decided I wanted to zip line! Now if you know me you know I have a terrible fear of heights so I'm not sure what came over me but I DID IT! Unfortunately we have no videos or pictures but it was an experience to remember. The staff was great and of course had to play up on my fear but they made it fun. We did a total of 9 ropes. My brave 4 year old would be so proud!

Day 3: Went mountain biking at Clymbworks. They said it was for all levels but that stuff is not for pansies. Again altitude, major climbs - it was brutal. The decent was terrific though. We only did 2 laps on the 1.7 mile loop.
After the mountain biking we went on another hike, shorter and paved but still a bit of a climb. It was called Laurel Falls. Round Trip hike of 2.6 miles.
Despite the sign, Micah took a plunge. Thankfully there were no deaths. 
At this point a nap was necessary - 3 hours worth! 
Dinner in town at a nice place called The Peddler. 

Day 4:  Slept in and then had brunch at FlapJacks. We had planned to go hiking again but agreed after 2 days of hiking plus mountain biking we needed a break. So we headed into Pigeon Forge for some miniature golf and go carts. 
And got to see Taffy being made. 

That afternoon we got a much needed couples massage at The Serenity Spa. Afterwards saw a show at The Comedy Barn and finished off the evening at a Japanese Steakhouse. 

Day 5: Headed to the airport to head back home! And that concludes our trip, we had an absolutely wonderful time together making memories and enjoying each others company.  Hope to do it again!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

6. Pride

Boys, men, the male gender are prone to pride.  Whether it's strutting off the court after a slam dunk, playing with the "fastest" toy car, or winning the board gamed or the umpteenth time, pride seems to be ingrained deep within their hearts. 

Although there are times when taking pride in something you have accomplished or worked hard towards is a good thing. My husband and I like the idea of exposing our boys to a number of different interest. But in that exposure we believe it's important to let them fail, not win and sometimes not be the best. We encourage them when they try their best and will be their biggest fans when they are the best. Most importantly though is teaching them that when they do excell that we give God the glory for the gifts and abilities He has given us. 

5. Wisdom

Growing up I didn't have a bible based foundation, so I did what I wanted...

Prior to becoming a Christ-follower at the age of 17 I wouldn't say there was a lot of wisdom in the decisions I made. I want to change that legacy for my boys. I want to raise wise, good men. Men who seek the Lord and put Him first in their lives. 

My boys can choose what type of men they want to become: wise or foolish. It is my job to equip them to know the difference. 

May Mack and Parker be like Solomon and ask You, God, for an understanding mind and the ability to discern between good and evil. (1Kings 3:9)

Friday, October 3, 2014

4. Integrity

We have to be careful with the way we live, taking special caution to live well when no else is looking. 

Not too long ago our family joined several of our friends and their families for dinner. There was a little situation that arose amongst our kids that needed some guidance. It was brought to my attention by another parent that according to her child, Mack was the instigator. Having not witnessed what happened, I was not quick to defend but in my heart I knew it was very uncharacteristic of Mack. I also know kids will be kids and it wasn't beyond him either. That night while putting Mack to bed we discussed what happened and without accusing him, I allowed Mack to share with me what happened. He very innocently said, "mommy, my friend was doing it so I did it. I didn't know it was wrong." I asked if he was telling me the truth because his friend told his mommy that it was Mack's idea. Mack was so confused and asked "but mommy, why would he lie about me to his mom?" It broke my heart. We had a great moment talking about the scenario and how his friend was maybe scared to get in trouble but that it's always best to tell the truth. We prayed for his friend. Then a couple days later Mack brought it up again, wanting to pray for his friend and said, "mommy, I want to lead my friends." 

I'll be honest, as a mom it was hard for me... The mother bear in me wanted to say you can't have friends like that or, how dare they accuse my son. But I realized that is why I stay at home, why I plan to homeschool... I am not here to shelter my boys from the world but rather to train them how to respond with integrity when life happens. In the end, even though my son was still believed to be the instigator I know he was honest with me and for that, I am one proud momma! 

I dream of my boys becoming mighty men of God--men of integrity, men of principle, men who love Jesus. I dare hope that when the day of temptation comes, they will stand strong and fight for Truth. But the best parenting in the world cannot make this dream come true. The only way is to pray the Lord will change their hearts. To give them warrior hearts, set apart for Him. 

May Mack and Parker walk before You as King David walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that You have commanded them and keeping Your statues and rules (1 Kings 9:4).  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

3. Overcoming Fear

Deep within me there's always been this desire for adventure... I was the only girl with 2 brothers in my family so I was quite the tomboy growing up. I loved being outdoors, climbing trees, trekking through creeks and playing in the mud! Maybe God knew I'd have boys someday and needed that sense of adventure in me...

Although I would claim to be adventurous there is more of a reserve within me the older I get. I don't long to go sky-diving or crave the adrenaline rush of roller coasters anymore! As I've aged I find there are fears within me that I can't identify their origin. Nonetheless, I have determined that although my boys will discover their own fears in life I do not want to instill mine within them. 

Just a couple months ago the boys and I had the opportunity to go to Summer Camp with the youth. We watched several of the students go off the zip line and it was only a matter of minutes before Mack, my 4 year old, asked if he could do it! I wasn't sure if the camp was equipped to allow a small child to go off and secretly I was hoping they weren't. I also knew there was absolutely no way this sweet little boy of mine was talking me into climbing the 30ft tower to free fall off the thing and zip line. I quickly told him we'd have to see what daddy says. Mack was persistent for the next day! So Micah makes it happen. We explained what would happen without trying to instill fear. We were not sure if he would follow through but he DID! It was the talk of camp! Although my heart was racing I was so proud of him. I loved what he said afterwards, "mom, you know why I was so brave? Because I knew God is always with me!"

I pray both my boys have that kind of courage in the face of fear. I know we are just talking about a little adventure here but it gives me hope and confidence that my boys will be:
-men who aren't afraid to take a stand, no matter the cost
-men whose wives appreciate their ability to make bold, fearless decisions for the benefit of his family. 
-men who have children that will reap the benefits of a father who worships the Lord without fear of what others think. 
-and men that follow hard after their God-give dreams. 

I want to help cultivate this kind of strength in my boys not stunt it with my fears. 

May Mack and Parker be strong and courageous and not fear or be in dread, for it is You, Lord, our God, who goes with them. You will not leave or forsake them. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2. Obedience

Children obey your parents in the Lord... Ephesians 6:1

Obey is such a difficult word to grasp, not just for little minds but for adults as well. It often requires submitting, yielding or in Webster's terms to comply. It is a breaking of our own will to follow the commands of another. It's a stripping of our indepence to fully trust that which is being commanded of us. Obey is so easily tied to that of a child but aren't we all children? Children of God? How then can I expect my children to obey if I first have not learned to be a student of obedience to the Word of God. I am learning that while I am teaching my boys the importance of obeying I too must model this obedience before them. I've heard it said that the greatest lessons in life are not taught but rather caught as it is demonstrated before them. I'm  learning that God doesn’t instantly change our children just because we want him to. Like many things in life, we often learn much about ourselves through prayer. We learn how we need to change; we learn how we need to grow.

Obedience and submission to authority  are normal parts of life. For the rest of their days, our sons will have to submit to someone or something. Even if your son becomes the CEO of the biggest most powerful company (or country) in the world, he will still have to answer to his maker. Training our boys now to respect and submit to authority sets them up for success of the greatest kind. 

Lord willing some day my boys will get married and when they do they will be responsible to lead their families. A quote I read said this, "If your man cannot submit to Jesus, he cannot lead you. A man must be willing to be led before he can truly lead." Training my boys in obedience is not an option. 

Nevertheless teaching obedience can be challenging and downright exhausting but it is one of the greatest opportunities to prove the gospel message to our sons. 

We often pray something similar with our boys, here's a great illustration out of "praying for Boys":

"Son, you're right. You didn't obey mommy. God says you must obey mommy and daddy, doesn't it?  It's hard to obey, isn't it? Everything in you wants your own way! It's fun to hit your brother sometimes. It's fun to be too loud, and sometimes it makes you feel good about yourself to tell mommy no.  But God, who made you, says that you must obey. You can't do it by yourself, can you? No matter how hard he tried to be good and obey mommy, you just can't get it right all the time. That's why we love God so much, son! I knew you couldn't do it by yourself! He knew you would choose to sin instead of obey! He knew you would need help! So he sent his only son, Jesus, to die for your sins and take the punishment you deserve. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and now Jesus is with God in heaven, just waiting for you to confess your sin and ask him to help you fight the sin in your heart! Isn't that great news? We need Jesus! Let's pray now and ask Jesus to help you!"

God, I pray that from a young age Mack and Parker would recognize their need for a Savior and the importance of obeying and desire to obey YOU! May they do this with joy and not groaning. (Hebrews 13:17).  And Lord, teach me to forever be a student of your Word as I train up these mighty men of God. 

1. Heart Change

I am participating in a 21 day challenge to pray for my sons.
Having 2 little boys is one of my greatest joys and parenting them, my greatest challenge! My husband and I prayed long before we decided to have children... We knew from the beginning we wanted children and welcomed the journey of parenthood. We also knew it was a very high calling and not one to be taken lightly. I specifically felt and knew that when I became a mom, the trajectory of my life would forever be changed. I would give up the desire to be "successful" in the world's eyes and aim to be successful in that which God had called me. Oh, there are so many days I feel as though my aim is far beneath even par but it is in my inadequacy that God equips and enables me to do the very job he's called me to do. You see, my calling and worth aren't just about how well my boys respond to my leading but also about how I respond to the Holy Spirit's leading. I am learning that parenting is one of the greatest forms of discipleship. It is humbling to admit I'm a flawed perfectionist who craves structure, order and cleanliness. Those things don't quite fit into the world of child-rearing, in fact they are often absent or non-existent altogether. And can I be honest?... It drives me absolutely crazy some days. It is then that I realize, I too, can not change my own heart, only Jesus can. So instead of expecting perfect behavior or even trying to change behavior (Because I can't.  Period. It's not my job.) I find this weary, exhausted mom on my knees seeking the only ONE who can change a heart - JESUS!  This is the first and most important action I can take. Praying that God will change their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)